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SWAT Ungauged: Hydrological Budget and Crop Yield Predictions in the Upper Mississippi River Basin

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  Transactions of the ASABE. 53(5): 1533-1546. (doi: 10.13031/2013.34903) @2010
Authors:   R. Srinivasan, X. Zhang, J. Arnold
Keywords:   Crop yield, Soil and Water Assessment Tool, Streamflow, Ungauged basin, Upper Mississippi River basin

Physically based, distributed hydrologic models are increasingly used in assessments of water resources, best management practices, and climate and land use changes. Model performance evaluation in ungauged basins is an important research topic. In this study, we propose a framework for developing Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) input data, including hydrography, terrain, land use, soil, tile, weather, and management practices, for the Upper Mississippi River basin (UMRB). We also present a performance evaluation of SWAT hydrologic budget and crop yield simulations in the UMRB without calibration. The uncalibrated SWAT model ably predicts annual streamflow at 11 USGS gauges and crop yield at a four-digit hydrologic unit code (HUC) scale. For monthly streamflow simulation, the performance of SWAT is marginally poor compared with that of annual flow, which may be due to incomplete information about reservoirs and dams within the UMRB. Further validation shows that SWAT can predict base flow contribution ratio reasonably well. Compared with three calibrated SWAT models developed in previous studies of the entire UMRB, the uncalibrated SWAT model presented here can provide similar results. Overall, the SWAT model can provide satisfactory predictions on hydrologic budget and crop yield in the UMRB without calibration. The results emphasize the importance and prospects of using accurate spatial input data for the physically based SWAT model. This study also examines biofuel-biomass production by simulating all agricultural lands with switchgrass, producing satisfactory results in estimating biomass availability for biofuel production.

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